Tune In To Your Dogs Health

Rambo was dumped at the shelter due to a health issue that became a huge ordeal
If you are reading this, chances are you already know that sharing your life with a pet can improve your health and happiness. Having a pet also brings certain responsibilities for the pet owner. They include many items we are all aware of, like proper nutrition, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and veterinarian visits among other things. Even with that knowledge, the reality is there are a lot of pets that are in bad health, and in many cases the pet owner is unaware of the issues, or can't afford to properly care for the pet. This post has been created with that in mind. Listed below are some basic tips that are either free, low cost, or preventative in nature reducing the chance of future, much more expensive or devastating alternatives. These tips help you stay in tune with your dog, and can help you notice small things before they lead to big things.


  • One of the easiest things to do is groom your dog often. Brushing their coat a couple of times a week, trimming their nails, checking there ears, and an occasional bath are not strictly about keeping your dog clean. Grooming is as much about maintaining your dogs health as it is their appearance.
  • Brushing often reduces the possibility of matting in longer haired pets, and can help remove loose, dead hair for less shedding. Brushing is important for all types of dogs, helping to spread the dog's natural oils over their fur, giving them a natural, healthy shine.
  • Brushing regularly also helps you notice abnormalities quickly. As you are grooming you can check for fleas and ticks, dry skin, growths/bumps, or issues with nails.
  • As part of the grooming regimen, pay attention to the ears, teeth and gums for signs of infection. Finding these problems early can lead to quick and easy treatments before they lead to serious health issues. Make this at least a weekly ritual to monitor ears, teeth, gums, eyes, etc. Even though you aren't a veterinarian, you can notice changes like redness, puffy areas, strange smells coming from the ears, or discharge from the eyes. If you notice any concerning changes, contact your vet.
  • Grooming is also a great way to bond with your pet. If you got your dog as a puppy, start grooming them right away, making sure they are comfortable with someone touching their paws, ears, and opening their mouths. That will make vet visits or trips to a professional grooming much more pleasant and less stressful for you and your pet.

Preventative Medications

  • Preventing flea and tick infestations before they start can help lead to preventing issues like general discomfort, itchy skin, anemia and many other issues. There are many different types of flea and tick preventatives, everything from oral and topical treatments that are administered monthly to specialty collars that are worn for longer periods of time. If you have more than 1 pet, it is best to maintain treatment for all of them.
  • Heartworm is extremely serious and can be fatal for your pet. Treatment is difficult and expensive to treat. Prevention is the best medicine in this case. Heartworm preventatives require a vet visit, possible bloodwork, and a prescription for medication. As such, a vet visit is required. 
  • Vaccinate your pet against potentially fatal diseases like rabies, parvo, and distemper. 

Wellness Exams

  • Regular wellness exams with a veterinarian can lead to catching health issues in early stages. Early detection and diagnosis of health concerns make it more likely the issue can be treated and resolved with less expense and better chance of a healthy outcome.
  • Wellness exams often incorporate routine vaccinations, heartworm testing, and general things like checking weight, eyes, ears, joints, and the mouth. You and your vet can discuss the schedule for wellness checks based on considerations for breed, size, age, possible pre-existing conditions, and lifestyle. 
  • Here at Leave No Paws Behind, we are building a Low Cost Veterinary Clinic in Southern California to make proper vet care more accessible and affordable to low income families. More on that here: Leave No Paws Behind To Open A Vet Clinic

Nutritious Diet

  • A nutritious, well balanced diet is imperative to maintaining good health in your pet. The problem is, what does that mean? There are so many choices available at the pet store, making it difficult to know what to choose. Kibble, wet food, raw? If the food you are currently feeding has led to appropriate energy levels for your dog's breed and age, his skin and coat appear healthy, he is maintaining a healthy weight, his stool is firm not soft, and he is in good health, the food you are feeding is working for him. If not, perhaps consider consulting with your vet at a wellness checkup for other food suggestions.
  • Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs. Choose a food specifically formulated for a puppy.
  • Make sure your pet has access to fresh, clean water.
  • There are some human foods that are good for your pet. You can see some of those here: People Food Your Dog Can Enjoy!
  • There are also human foods (and other household items) that are toxic to your pet. You can find those here: These Everyday Items Are Dangerous To Your Pet!


  • Exercising your pet is a great way to keep them healthy, happy, and mentally stimulated. It is also one of the things that helps benefit your health too! Daily walks or runs through the neighborhood will help maintain healthy weight, is good for heart health, and makes for a great opportunity to bond with your dog.
  • Physical exercise can include things like going for walks, playing fetch in the yard with a ball or frisbee, competing in a sport like agility or dock diving, swimming in the pool, or going for a hike.
  • Mentally stimulating your dog can be great exercise for them too. Trying different types of scent games (like having them find food), obedience training, or teaching them a new trick are all great ways to stimulate their brains.
  • Breed, size, age, and current health all need to be considerations for setting up an exercise schedule. Consult with your vet prior to starting a new exercise regimen.
  • Daily exercise not only helps with maintaining their health, it can also lead to less destructive behavior. 

Maintain A Healthy Weight

  • A pet's weight is very important to good health. Maintaining your pet's healthy weight is one of the best preventative measures you can take. Some of the benefits for maintaining a good weight for your pet's breed, size, and age are lowered risk of heart disease, respiratory issues, diabetes, and kidney disease. It also reduces injuries to bone, muscle, and joints. They are also more likely to live longer and have less discomfort when at a healthy weight.
  • If your pet is overweight, there are many things you can do to help reduce the weight. The first step should be to consult with your vet (the weight topic should come up and solutions can be discussed at your wellness exam) to rule out any underlying health issues. Assuming there are none, here are some ideas for reducing your pet's weight. Reduce the calorie intake and increase exercise. Make sure the food you are feeding is nutritious. Avoid feeding them table scraps and high calorie treats. 
  • Try using a slow feed bowl if you have an exuberant eater. 
  • Set goals and monitor progress. 
  • Make it fun for them! Spending more time on a walk, playing fetch in the yard, or going for a hike are great ways to increase exercise all while spending time playing with your pup.
  • Make sure everyone in the household understands the importance and is on the same page. It doesn't help if you start to lower the quantity of food and increase activity levels if your significant other is still feeding the dog scraps under the table. Make sure that children don't derail your dogs diet by feeding them treats when you aren't looking.

Understand Normal

  • This can be one go the most important things to understand to help stay in tune to your pets health. Understand what normal looks like in your pet to make it easier to spot differences in behavior or attitude when they arise. These abnormal behaviors can often times be your first clue to a possible health concern.
  • If normal is your dog goes outside to use the restroom 3 times a day, but now is scratching at the back door every hour to go out, that could be an indicator of an issue. 
  • If your dog is house trained, but has all of a sudden started urinating in the house, or leaking in their bed, this could be an indication. Alternatively, are they having trouble defecating?
  • Is your dog more lethargic than normal? Do they not get as excited if you grab the leash or her favorite toy?
  • Is your dog limping?
  • Do you notice an increase in water consumption? Filling up the water dish more often?
  • Does he have a loss of appetite?
  • Are they whining or wincing when getting up?
  • Is there hair loss or a change in their coat?
  • Have you noticed a shallowness or change to their normal breathing pattern?
  • Are they suddenly refusing to go upstairs or jump up on the couch with you?
  • Are they refusing to do known behaviors like sit or down? Do they appear in pain when doing so?
  • All of these things could be abnormal for your pet and indicate a possible health issue that may need to be investigated by your veterinarian.
  •  If you pay attention to your pet, and are doing the other things listed above, you will notice small, often subtle changes to your dogs behavior. As much as we wish they could, pets can't tell us when something is wrong or painful. Dogs can be very stoic about pain, and can go to great lengths to hide it. Some believe this is a trait that helps them avoid being eaten by a predator. Others believe our pets don't want to trouble us. Either way, it is up to us to notice what may seem like small changes to behavior, and consider if that change warrants a trip to the vet. 
  • Noticing something "odd" compared to "normal" can lead to early treatment or detection of a health issue, and increase the odds of a favorable outcome. 
There are a lot of ways for you to stay in tune to your pets health. Some are inexpensive or free, and others may have a cost associated with them. We are doing our part here at Leave No Paws Behind to lower the cost of vet care, in the hopes that we can prevent little concerns from becoming major health issues. You can help us achieve that goal by donating: Donate Here

In most all the tips above, the underlying advice is basically this: Spend time with your pet. Love them. Pet them. Play with them, take them for walks, snuggle with them, give them a massage. Just by doing that, you will begin to notice small things that can be fixed or treated before they become big things. Go love on your pet today. 💕